The Guggenheim Fellowships were announced. A lot of great writers received fellowships including Peter Maass, Arthur Phillips, Donald Ray Pollock. Terry Teachout, who's a great drama critic and arts writer and is writing a biography of the legendary Duke Ellington. Two Middle East scholars, Jamal J. Elias at the University of Pennsylvania and Ellis Goldberg at the University of Washington. The great poet and writer Eileen Myles. The physicist and writer Janna Levin, who wrote the fabulous book A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines. Eliza Griswold, whose book The Tenth Parallel won the J. Anthony Lukas Book prize and which I stand in awe of.
But one of this year's recipients is Alison Bechdel, a woman who is one of the great memoirists of our time, and one of the great living cartoonists. She's not the first cartoonist to receive such an honor. A few have previously been won including Joe Sacco, Phoebe Gloeckner and Ben Katchor. Bechdel, who I've interviewed and think is an incredibly nice person and an incredibly gifted artist of the highest caliber. Bechdel's newest book comes out next month, Are You My Mother?, and it's excellent, so this should add to a significant year and bolster an already stellar reputation.
I know that feeling a sense of pride over accomplishments not one's own is illogical, but one of the things that artists and creators sometimes give us, especially over a period of years, is a sense of involvement in their work. I remember being introduced to Alison Bechdel when I was in college, which was before her book Fun Home was released. In the time that I've read her, Bechdel has become more famous, more successful, but more importantly, I think she's a much better, more masterful artist and writer. I think that especially when an artist goes from being a cult figure to one much better known–and becomes better known for being a great artist by doing great work–I think that there is a sense of ownership and pride from those who followed her and had a connection to her work.
According to her bio on the Guggenheim website, Bechdel already has plans for her next book. Hopefully after she goes on book tour and is forced to talk nonstop about Are You My Mother? for months, she can return to Vermont and get some work done.